Good question!! And since I happen to be making a fresh batch of soap this morning, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share some of the steps with you.
Today I am making 'hot process' soap. There are several different kinds of soap, I make 3 different kinds: hot process, cold process, and glycerin soap (sometimes called melt & pour). In a nutshell, hot process is cooked, cold process is not cooked, and glycerin soap is pre-made and you make it into something else. I'll tell you more about cold process and glycerin soap in another post. :)
Making hot process (hp) soap is a lot like baking a cake from scratch. You have a recipe, ingredients and you cook it. I tried a lot of different recipes before I created one I really liked. I started out using a recipe another soaping person shared with me, and then I tweaked it here and there until I felt it was just right and made it my own.
There are quite a few ingredients in my hp soap and I start by getting them all set out. In my soap you'll find you recognize (and even use yourself in your own kitchen!!) most of the ingredients. That's part of what I like about this craft... everything is natural and not chemical.
Once I have all my ingredients out, I turn my crockpot on and get the oils in to melt (the ones that are solid at room temp like cocoa butter and coconut oil). Once they're nicely melted, I add in my liquid oils (like olive oil and avocado oil). I also add in some special clay at this point, its really good for your skin!
Once my oils are all nicely warming up, its time to gear up for safety!! Let's take a moment to talk about this. I want to make this very clear!! ALL soap is made using lye. However!! No soap (when its finished curing) should EVER have any lye left in it.
Lye is also called 'sodium hydroxide'. Lye is an extremely caustic substance in every form. It will cause severe burns if you get it on your skin and it will eat through your clothes before you know it.
To make soap, lye is mixed with water to create a solution. The lye water gets very hot very fast!! Within just 2 or 3 seconds, the lye heats up the water from 60°F to 200°F. Seconds!!
So when working with lye, you need eye protection, an apron to protect your clothes, long sleeves and long pants, and gloves to protect your hands. I do this each and every time I make soap. Complacency can get you hurt!
Once the lye and the oils are close to each other in temperature, its time to combine them. I use a stick blender to help the oil and water emulsify. What?? Water and oil don't mix!! Well, that's part of the job that the lye does. It helps the oil and water molecules bind together. Its other job is to 'eat' the oils. This combination causes a reaction called saponification and that results in soap!!
In hp soap, we continue to 'cook' this batter (it starts out looking like butterscotch pudding!) to keep that saponification process going until all of the lye has eaten as much oil as it is capable of and is all gone. The batter goes through a couple of stages during the cook and looks pretty cool!
Sometimes it looks like applesauce, then mashed potatoes! After a while, it looks like whipped vaseline! This is when we know the batter is fully cooked.
You could pour this batter into your mold at this point and you'll have perfectly good soap once it cools and cures. I like to add some extra things in to make my soap into something even better; things like yogurt, honey, sugar, and extra oils. Since the lye is completely gone at this point, the extra oils added will stay in the soap and help nourish your skin when you use it. In this batch, I've added some vitamin E, lanolin and shea butter along with other beneficial oils.
I split out some of my batter and added some color. The colorant I use is called mica. This is a natural mineral that has some pigment added to it. Today I used some red mica. If I were going to add fragrance, this would be the point where it would be added. This batch I'm making unscented (on purpose) for people like my mother who can't use fragrances. When I was talking to her this morning, she suggested the color :) Guess I'll be naming this one with her in mind. :)
Once the colors are mixed, you can swirl them together in so many ways! In this batch, I layered the colors together in my loaf mold and then used a chop stick to swirl it all together. Since I had a little left over, I poured the leftovers into a single bar mold. I get to use that one myself (or put it in someone's order as a sample, or add it to my 'Ugly Soap' collection).
So all that's left is to wait for this to solidify and get hard. That'll take about 12-18 hours (sometimes longer if I added a lot of extra oils). Once its a solid loaf, I'll take it out of the mold and slice it into individual bars of soap. :)
But!! That's not quite the end of the process!! The bars of soap will mellow out and cure on my shelves for 3-4 weeks before they can be used. Here's a peek at what my curing rack looked like a couple days ago.
Most of the water evaporates out of the bars and they get harder. They also get milder and will last longer than a freshly made bar. After 3-4 weeks, you'll see them listed for sale in the boutique.
So!! If you made it this far, thanks for sticking around to learn how I make hot process soap!! The geek in me thinks its a pretty cool process while the creative side of me loves to make new and cool things. Have a great rest of your day!!
Thanks for visiting Joanne's Bath & Body Boutique!!
PS - Here's the cut from this morning's batch of soap!! Decided to call this one "Rose's Roses Don't Smell". Cute, right? :)
Have a great rest of your day!!